Caps Visit Canada's Capital
Monday, 11.23.2009 / 7:30 PM
Mike Vogel - WashingtonCaps.com Senior WriterNovember 23 vs. Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place
: 820AM, 1500AM and XM
Pre-Cap Podcast at 2 p.m. on washingtoncaps.com
Washington Capitals (13-5-5)
Ottawa Senators (11-6-3)
The Caps close out a quick Canadian road trip with a Monday night visit to Ottawa for their first meeting of the season with the Senators. The game is the third of five in a row against Northeast Division opponents for the Capitals, and the third straight against a Canadian-based team.
Washington started the trip with a 2-1 shootout loss at the hands of the Maple Leafs in Toronto on Saturday. The Caps are now 5-3-2 in November with four more games remaining this month.
The Caps scored the game’s first goal in Saturday’s game against the Leafs, doing so for the 18th time in 23 games this season. Washington has outscored the opposition by a combined total of 27-11 in the first period this season, but that first frame dominance hasn’t always carried through to the latter stages of games.
The Capitals are just 9-5-4 in those 18 games in which they’ve drawn first blood, and the team’s .500 winning pct. in such situations is tied for 24th in the league. Washington is 6-4-3 when leading after the first period this season. The team’s .462 winning pct. when leading after 20 minutes ranks 29th in the NHL.
Seven of Washington’s regulars were out of the lineup on Saturday in Toronto. Playing the second game of back-to-back tilts with a patchwork lineup, the Caps were held to fewer than two goals in a game for the first time all season.
The Maple Leafs pulled the trigger on more than 80 shots on Saturday, and 39 of those were on goal. Caps rookie goaltender Semyon Varlamov
stopped 38 of them as he continues his recent run of stellar play.
Since being pulled in his second start of the season on Oct. 6 in Philadelphia, Varlamov is 7-1-1 in nine appearances with a 1.94 GAA and a .933 save pct. In his last four starts, Varlamov has stopped 111 of the 115 shots he has faced (.965 save pct.).
Overall this season, Varlamov’s .919 save pct. ranks 13th and his 2.42 GAA is 15th among all NHL netminders.
The 2008-09 Sens missed the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in a dozen seasons. Ottawa fired first-year coach Craig Hartsburg in the middle of the campaign, replacing him with Cory Clouston. Clouston, who had been the head coach of Ottawa’s AHL Binghamton, became the Senators’ fourth bench boss in three seasons.
Under Clouston, the Sens finished the season on a 19-11-4 run after having started the campaign with a 17-24-7 record under Hartsburg’s tutelage.
This season, the Sens have picked up right where they left off. Ottawa is off to a surprising 11-6-3 start that has then in the thick of a competitive, four-team chase for the top spot in the NHL’s Northeast Division. The Senators are in second place, just a point behind Buffalo.
Ottawa has had a lopsided early season schedule, playing 14 of its first 20 games on home ice. The Sens are 8-3-3 at home and 3-3 on the road this season.
The Senators have lost consecutive games in regulation once all season, the only time they’ve gone as many as two straight games without collecting a point. Ottawa is 5-2-1 in November and has won each of its last three games, matching its longest winning run of the campaign.
Ottawa ranks 17th in the league with 61 goals this season. Three players (Milan Michalek, Mike Fisher and Daniel Alfredsson) have accounted for nearly half (44%) of that total.
Michalek, obtained from San Jose in the Dany Heatley deal, has scored a goal in each of his last three games. He leads the Sens with 10 goals on the season.